This article focuses on A True Account of the Great Tryals and Cruel Sufferings of Katherine Evans and Sarah Cheevers (1663), a fascinating text by two Quaker visionary preachers who in 1658 sailed to the Mediterranean, were imprisoned by the Italian Inquisition in Malta for over three years and, after their release, made an adventurous journey back to England via Spain and Morocco. Their narrative constitutes one of the rare instances of travel writing by women in the seventeenth century and is exceptional from many points of view. The authors’ constant play on interior and exterior reality, the language of spirituality and the construction of gender and cultural identity reveal a way of writing about travel that is radically different from subsequent (especially 19th-century) travel literature by women, which has been, up to now, the main focus of feminist and gender scholarship. The analysis of this text will contribute to illuminate a less known historical phase of women’s writing about travel and to highlight the specificity of gender construction in early modern travel literature. Written at the height of Quakerism, the Account must be placed in the cultural context of English religious radicalism, which supplied a revolutionary new model for a woman’s place in society, epitomised by Margaret Fell’s Women’s Speaking Justified (1666). Women were prominent members of Quaker communities, often active as preachers, prophetesses, authors of polemical and religious texts and printers. Far from being a contingent circumstance or a mere pilgrimage, travel possessed for Quakers a special significance and was experienced as proof of personal spiritual enlightenment. Evans’ and Cheevers’ joint narrative participates of the specificity of Quaker travel writing, combining the picaresque and the mystical, polemic and prayer, prophetic vision and vivid detail in a highly original hybrid form. This paper will explore Quaker women’s remarkable textual strategies: their equation of travel and “travail”, their definition of femininity in relation to encounters with alterity and authority (Catholics, the Inquisition, the Moors), their use of biblical discourse to decode landscape and events, and their narrative technique in which reality is reinvented through spiritual experience. This potentially fragmented work is given coherence by one unifying element – the close bond of love between the two women, whose voices are woven together or spontaneously alternate in harmonious co-authorship.

Mystical Picaresque: the "Great Tryals" of Quaker Prophetesses

ARCARA, Stefania
2005

Abstract

This article focuses on A True Account of the Great Tryals and Cruel Sufferings of Katherine Evans and Sarah Cheevers (1663), a fascinating text by two Quaker visionary preachers who in 1658 sailed to the Mediterranean, were imprisoned by the Italian Inquisition in Malta for over three years and, after their release, made an adventurous journey back to England via Spain and Morocco. Their narrative constitutes one of the rare instances of travel writing by women in the seventeenth century and is exceptional from many points of view. The authors’ constant play on interior and exterior reality, the language of spirituality and the construction of gender and cultural identity reveal a way of writing about travel that is radically different from subsequent (especially 19th-century) travel literature by women, which has been, up to now, the main focus of feminist and gender scholarship. The analysis of this text will contribute to illuminate a less known historical phase of women’s writing about travel and to highlight the specificity of gender construction in early modern travel literature. Written at the height of Quakerism, the Account must be placed in the cultural context of English religious radicalism, which supplied a revolutionary new model for a woman’s place in society, epitomised by Margaret Fell’s Women’s Speaking Justified (1666). Women were prominent members of Quaker communities, often active as preachers, prophetesses, authors of polemical and religious texts and printers. Far from being a contingent circumstance or a mere pilgrimage, travel possessed for Quakers a special significance and was experienced as proof of personal spiritual enlightenment. Evans’ and Cheevers’ joint narrative participates of the specificity of Quaker travel writing, combining the picaresque and the mystical, polemic and prayer, prophetic vision and vivid detail in a highly original hybrid form. This paper will explore Quaker women’s remarkable textual strategies: their equation of travel and “travail”, their definition of femininity in relation to encounters with alterity and authority (Catholics, the Inquisition, the Moors), their use of biblical discourse to decode landscape and events, and their narrative technique in which reality is reinvented through spiritual experience. This potentially fragmented work is given coherence by one unifying element – the close bond of love between the two women, whose voices are woven together or spontaneously alternate in harmonious co-authorship.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/20.500.11769/105968
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